Off the Silk Road

  • July 24, 2019

The closing ceremony of the 2018 EU-China Tourism Year in Xi’an was a memorable celebration marked by captivating music, a stunning light show and powerful speeches promising continued collaboration. ESN – picked by the EU Delegation in China to put together the EU’s cultural contribution – was proud to be part of such a major international event.

Senior project manager Jean-Luc coordinated this project on behalf of ESN, and gives us his thoughts below.

The event turned out to be a huge success. Needless to say, there were some unexpected hiccups along the way. Some involved tracking down drums and a tuba, others making sure details didn’t get lost in translation.

Curious? Here’s the backstory:

It all kicked off in earnest a mere SEVEN weeks before the big day in November 2018. That’s when we signed the contract and got official confirmation that we were in charge of pulling together a 3D show to be projected on a wall of the UNESCO-listed ancient city of Xi’an.

But that’s not all – we were also asked to arrange the logistics for 20 musicians of the European Youth Orchestra to play on site (oh, and find them a rehearsal space); book plane tickets and hotels for 10 journalists and 30 VIP guests; find hostesses to distribute EU goodies; and hire a local team to take photos and a make a series of video clips of this unforgettable day in Europe’s history …

So, with the clock ticking, we set to work.

The pressure went up a notch when we received the following email from the people in charge of the orchestra:

“After having a look at the repertoire for the performance in Xi’an, it seems that we do need some big percussion instruments that we are not able to carry from Europe: 2 timpani, 2 side drums, 1 bass drum, 1 tam-tam.

Do you think it would be possible to approach a local orchestra or a music institution that could facilitate the hiring of these instruments?”

This was not part of the deal. But being a music lover, I just couldn’t say no!

In the end, we rented all the missing instruments from a traditional Chinese opera house in Xi’an that also agreed to let their rehearsal space out to us. Problem solved.

Another instrument-related dilemma we came up against had to do with a tuba. Since the airline the orchestra flew with refused to accept it on board due to its size, we had to find a local, Chinese alternative. In the end, we got lucky and found one that got a ride from Beijing to Xi’an via DHL.

All in all, it was a hectic project because we had to solve many practical and organisational issues on tight deadlines. Add to that a foreign language and cultural differences... We made it in the end and event attendees were impressed with the 3D show and orchestra performance, as was I.

And we made the requested video:


Jean-Luc, ESN project manager
With a master in History of Arts and project management skills,
Jean-Luc was the right man for the EU Chinese Delegation project